Today I swam with my robot. My pool cleaning robot. My daughter curiously asked if it disrupted my swimming and as I thought about it… I answered, yes… and it actually makes me swim better, focus more and time passes faster. Here’s why I see swimming with robots – and other intentional life disruptions – as true secrets to developing resilience.

I have a pool and try to swim every day. It’s a habit and a luxury that I’m grateful for. But let’s face it, swimming can be boring! I sometimes think about specific things, sometimes I meditate, others I’m bored. Regardless, I count my 100 laps routinely with more or less gusto, depending on the day.

What I noticed is if I throw the robot in the pool to clean during my swim, my experience changes. I need to navigate the cord with agility, untangling an arm or let if it gets stuck. My eyes, attention and curiosity are drawn to wherever the robot turns next. I miscount my no-longer-straight laps. I lose track of time and creatively conceptualise articles like this one. The disruption breaks the monotony of my swim, brings me to peak awareness and improves my focus along with the experience itself.

Resilience is about bouncing back, recovering quickly from difficulties and springing back into shape. Resilience is not about swimming through life avoiding it’s challenges unharmed, rather, it’s about experiencing the negative, difficult, distressing waves by staying on course and not drowning. Developing resilience requires distress. After all, if we never had disruptions, how could we learn to navigate them?

Responding to disruptions demands adaptability and awareness such as we’ve all witnessed during the pandemic. We’ve accepted what could not be controlled and found creative strategies to cope. This unusual disruptor has us all at peak awareness. When we operate at this level of awareness – of ourselves and our surroundings – we can embrace life’s inevitable ups and downs and swim through smoothly and resiliently.

Create your own robots! Here are some suggestions of provoking life disruptions to increase your focus, engagement and awareness to build your resilience:

  1. Struggling with a relationship? Commit to meet new people to inspire fresh thoughts, ideas and exchange.
  2. In a workout rut? Change your routine to challenge different muscles, bones and attention.
  3. Tired of commuting? Switch it up by taking a new direction or deciding to center your thoughts on discovering something new on the way each day.
  4. Having trouble sleeping? Prioritise your bedtime to disrupt your day’s tasks rather than prioritising tasks and finally getting to bed.
  5. Considering a job change? Try a job swap or volunteer to experience something new or (maybe even) learn to appreciate the job you have.
  6. Is food your challenge? Disrupt your diet every week – adding or subtracting new foods – until you find what works best for you.
  7. Life in transition due to age, job or finances? S T O P to Take a breath, Observe what really matters now and Proceed in a new direction – like me with my robot….
  8. Feeling lost? Ask for support from a coach, guide, mentor or friend. Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength.

Resilient adaptation to change can have a powerful impact on our health and vice versa. Research shows that learning to navigate life’s robots can help us experience more positive emotions and better manage negative ones, improve our capacity to cope with and resist stress and contribute to healthy ageing. Resilience improves our sense of well-being at every age and it can be self-built through concerted effort.

Throw some robot’s in your life, look for the opportunities for self-development and have the courage to take advantage of them!